Wednesday, October 17, 2007

She Loves You - Yah, Yeah, Ya!

The other night, Glenn Earich, a former student and current teacher in The Second City Writing Program, and I were discussing writing pet peeves that show up in our students' work. Imagine my surprise when one of the things I did was at the top of his list.

Glenn hates when a student uses the word "Yeah" (in his world, pronounced yah), when they mean "Yea" (in his world, pronounced yey!). According to Glenn, the right way in this world is...

Yea! I see the great white whale off the starboard bow! Starbuck, do you have my lucky harpoon?


In my world, it's always been...

Yeah! I found my peg leg. Now, I can go for a jog around the poop deck. Will you join me, Starbuck?


I mentioned this to Fuzzy Gerdes who tells me he does this...

Yay! I found a stowaway to befriend. I think I'll show him where my treasure is buried.

Ya. Captain. That's the wrong story.

Shut up and bring me my parrot.

Actually, I don't remember how Fuzzy dealt with "yah" because I was so stuck on his use of "Yay!" There's something about that "Yay!" that puts me on the edge of a seizure. It sounds right but looks very, very wrong to me. I believe it has the power to cause a rift in the fabric of reality and therefore should never be used.

So, what's the right way of expressing cheer distinct from a casual affirmation?

Dictionaries haven't been helpful on this. They do site "yea" in pronunciation of the cheer, but use it in a biblical sense (Yea, though I walk through the valley, etc...). In some, "yeah" and "yea" are interchangeable in meaning and pronunciation. And "yay" shows up when referring to measure, as in "yay high to a grasshopper."

So, let's ask a professor. According to Paul Brians, professor of English at Washington State University and author of Common Errors in English Usage...

“Yea” is a very old-fashioned formal way of saying “yes,” used mainly in voting. It’s the opposite of—and rhymes with—“nay.” When you want to write the common casual version of “yes,” the correct spelling is “yeah” (sounds like “yeh” ). When the third grade teacher announced a class trip to the zoo, we all yelled “yay!” (the opposite of “boo”!). That was back when I was only yay big.

There you have it. I was all wrong and Glenn was half right. And Fuzzy taught me a new word that I thought he made up. As much as that word "Yay!" gives me the heebeejeebies, I will now have to embrace it.



Yesterday was Blog Action Day! Sorry, I didn't get the memo and didn't really do anything action-y. While I discount blogging as valid journalism, I do think it is a valuable tool of expression and a great way for politicians to get a bead on we "the people." It's a way for us to build community in the world.


Yesterday, I asked...

"After months of frustration, a mother of a soldier in Iraq was able to ship to the troops 80,000 cans of what?"

23% picked "Hershey's Chocolate Syrup"
- I have no idea why anyone thought this was the right answer. What? The troops don't have any chocolate syrup for their sundaes! Where's the outrage? Support our troops! Support our troops!

7% chose "Spam"
- I think when it comes to potted meats, the army has enough to rebuild a war torn country.

Much to my dismay, no one thought it was "Prince Albert Tobacco"
- "Dear President Bush, We need more Prince Albert in a can. Signed, Pvt. I. P. Daley"

70% got the right answer with "Silly String"

According to the Associated Press, Marcelle Shriver's Silly String campaign began late last year after her son, Todd, a soldier in Ramadi slated to leave Iraq in November, asked his parents to send cans of the product. Soldiers can shoot the substance, which travels about 10-12 feet, across a room before entering. If it hangs in the air, that indicates a possible trip wire. I really wish the army had been on the ball and equipped the troops with Silly String from the get-go. Instead of toppling a statue of Sadam, I would much rather have seen jubilant Iraqis firing off cans of Silly String for the camera. Keep that in mind when Bush figures out a way to invade Iran without our approval.


Unknown said...

I've always used "Yay." My wife uses "Yea." Our marriage survives.

Fuzzy said...

Actually, I spell "mild assent" as "yeah".